2023 March 11 03:00:00 pm +0000
Maybe I have been afraid to engage with black people because I didn't know how to relate. Maybe because I lacked experience. I don't remember ever being mean to anyone because they were black. I think I was indifferent and unaware.
Several years ago I started actively engaging with the black men I worked with at MSU. Because that seemed like the most obvious and direct way that I could improve race relations---by simply beginning to relate, in-person, and on the ground, with my co-workers and fellow Wichitans.
I met Ronnie Wherry, who had served in the military, was in his 60s and counting down the days to retirement. Ronnie was super kind to me and helpful, especially when it came to keeping my composure and teaching me how to work smart not hard. I learned a lot through Ronnie. He also cooked a mean briscuit.
I met Jermaine Causey, who was working at MSU as his second full-time job. He was tired a lot, probably from working two full-time jobs, one of which was third-shift. But he was always jolly and his happiness and joy was contagious. He and his family relocated to Wichita Falls during the major flooding that occurred during Hurricane Katrina.
I met Edward. Edward had also been in the military and was a supervisor. He understood my warehouse job, and the importance of inventory and record keeping. I picked up the phrase "being on the box" from him, in reference to "being on the computer". He was also very gracious to me.
I met Shane Black. I felt a unique connection with Shane. When he transferred to a different department, I took his old job. He was pastor of a church on the Eastside of town. So was Edward. I came from a Pentecostal background and we had that in common.
These older men were all gracious to me. Shane would call me young man. I felt myself bristle at that the first time or two but grew to appreciate being called that. And we worked together, and still cared about one another like real human beings.
During one of the last cold spells, I was so cold and felt so alone, and I had done about all of the praying that I could do by myself. And on that particular night, I just felt like being around some other people that loved Jesus too. So, I looked up Shane's church and found out that they had a meeting on Tuesday nights called "Bible Band". That sounded cool to me because I thought there might be music.
I bundled up and road my bike across town. When I got there, the door was locked so I knocked. A few older women appeared in the lobby and I could tell they didn't know what to make of me. I would later find out that they had decided that I must need something really bad to be out in that kind of weather, so they decided to let me in. Mother Pierce opened the door and asked "can I help you?". I told her I was there for Bible Band!
It turned out that Bible Band was a kind of Bible Trivia. And we would take turns reading scriptures and discussing what the passage meant. I enjoyed that. Especially since there was a Dearborn heater in the floor and I could warm my feet by the fire.
I attended Sunday service there several times.
In addition to being a Pastor, Shane is an entrepreneur. He owns Shane Black Cleaning Service, a commercial cleaning service and has used me on a few jobs.
What's the point I am trying to make? Why am I sharing these stories? Maybe because, although I haven't necessarily been actively racist towards black people, I may have been passively racist by simply ignoring black folks all-together. Until I knew better. And I wonder if that is what is meant by "all white people are racist".
- Technote: dcc8b78989c9095fa7b943e497aa515ea37c9792